That’s a great thing since the last time these two teams met, without Murphy, the Blackhawks played perhaps their worst game of the season. They allowed 71 Corsi events at even strength and 42 shots, including 13 high-danger chances. They barely had anything (19 shots and three high danger chances) themselves.
Murphy coming back changes the blue line. Pick any possession stat or individual expected goals, or any defensive stat - Murphy leads. The Duncan Keith/Murphy defensive pairing has easily been Chicago’s best this season, but any pairing with Murphy improves. Getting the best defenseman back against a team that haunted the Blackhawks without him is huge. Especially when the rest of the team seemingly has finally figured it out.
The Blackhawks are now 4-1-1 in their last six games, including big wins over the Golden Knights, Maple Leafs and Canucks. They almost beat the Penguins and have only lost to the Sharks, who are currently one of the NHL’s hottest teams.
Robin Lehner will start for the Blackhawks. He owns a 4-3-2 record on the season and a .934 save-percentage, which is ranked second in the NHL. The last time these two central division foes met, Lehner was stellar with 48 saves and kept the game from being a blowout.
If there’s a moment to catch Nashville, it might be this one. They’ve lost three straight games, starting with a 9-4 defeat to the Colorado Avalanche. It also includes a defeat by a team the Blackhawks recently beat — the Canucks.
Still, Nashville comes in with the second-best offense by goals for per game. However, their defense/goaltending has dropped them below the Blackhawks in goals against per game (they have a team save percentage of just .900). Their penalty kill, operating at just 75.0-percent successful kill rate, is also not helping with that at the moment.
Yet, the Predators big three defensemen — Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm — should remain central figures in this game. Josi is first on the team with 18 points and Ellis is second with 16. Ekholm, typically a more-defensive oriented defenseman, has 10 points so far this season in 18 games. A friendly reminder that the Blackhawks’ leading point scorer from the blue line (aka Duncan Keith) has just six points. If defensive scoring plays a role in this game, that favors Nashville.
Pekka Rinne is slated to start for the Predators. He’s lost his last two starts giving up nine goals against and owns a .907 save-percentage this season.
Tale of the Tape
Blackhawks — Statistic — Predators
47.2% (28th) — Corsi For — 50.9% (14th)
48.5% (24th) — Faceoffs — 50.9% (9th)
2.78 (21st) — Goals per game — 3.78 (2nd)
3.00 (t-16th) — Goals against per game — 3.17 (20th)
14.3% (24th) — Power play — 20.6% (16th)
78.3% (20th) — Penalty kill — 75.0% (24th)
Saad — Toews — Nylander
DeBrincat — Strome — Kane
Shaw — Kampf — Kubalik
Carpenter — Dach — Smith
Keith — Gustafsson
de Haan — Seabrook
Maatta — Murphy
Forsberg — Johansen — Granlund
Jarnkrok — Duchene — Arvidsson
Grimaldi — Bonino — Smith
Watson — Turris — Sissons
Josi — Ellis
Ekholm — Fabbro
Hamhuis — Weber
How to watch
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville
TV: NBC Sports Chicago+
Live stream: ESPN+, NBC Sports app